Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

A Minnesota teen-ager told he couldn't wear a sweatshirt with the words "Straight Pride" on it because it was offensive to some students at a public high school has sued the school district in federal court claiming his free speech rights were violated, reports

Elliott Chambers, a 16-year-old student at Woodbury High School outside St. Paul, says he was called into the principal's office in January and told the shirt was not allowed in school because it was offensive to gay, lesbian and bisexual students.

The sweatshirt carried the trademarked logo "Straight Pride" on the front, and the stick-figure symbols of a man and woman holding hands on the back.

Fall From Grace

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Virginia Military Institute to end yet another institutional tradition -- its dinner blessing, The Associated Press reported.

Rebecca Glenberg, legal counsel for the Virginia ACLU, said Tuesday that complaints from two VMI cadets prompted her to write the school asking that the dinner prayer be stopped. The ACLU is considering filing a lawsuit, she said.

State and college officials are vowing to defend the prayer. "The Constitution does not prohibit our saying grace before supper," VMI Superintendent Josiah Bunting III said in a letter to the ACLU. "And we shall continue to do so."

That’ll Solve the Problem

Administrators at a small liberal arts college in Lexington, Ky., understandably upset about a racial slur scrawled on the door of a black student’s dorm room, decided to remove a portrait of Jefferson Davis from the building in reaction, The Associated Press reported.

After meeting with a student group calling itself the Transylvania Anti-Hate Coalition, Transylvania University President Charles Shearer decided to mothball the portrait. He said he could understand how it could make African-American students walking by it each day uncomfortable.

The portrait of the Confederate presidency hangs in the dorm because the building is named after him.

(Thanks to B. Amburgey)

Furling a 'Choose Life' Banner

Some residents of Amherst, Mass., are in a twit over a banner dangling above a downtown street that says "Abortion Has Two Victims, One Wounded, One Dead. Choose Life," the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported.

For nine years, the city has allowed groups to sponsor banners over the street announcing events of local interest. When no one steps up to buy notices about quilting shows or the like, the city allows other groups to put up messages. Now, some citizens want the Select Board to reconsider the policy.

Mary Ann Cofrin believes something so political shouldn’t hang on town property. "No one should drive through town and be offended," she said.

But Mary McDonnell of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life says it is a free speech issue. She notes that no one complained when, for a week every year until 1998, a banner reading "Keep Abortion Safe, Legal and Funded" hung in the same spot.

(Thanks to Barry A.)

Reparations Watch (cont.)

Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry who were shipped to the United States and held captive during World War II are now seeking an acknowledgment of their mistreatment and an apology from the U.S. government, the AP reported.

Some 2,264 Latin American residents of Japanese descent were forcibly deported to the United States and interred at the Crystal City Internment Camp in Texas. Most were being held to exchange for Americans held by Japan at the time.

U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, is now seeking reparations for those who suffered. The Wartime Parity and Justice Act would provide $20,000, and an official apology, for each victim.

They Got a Problem With Dat

A group of Italian-American lawyers is suing Time Warner and HBO, producers of The Sopranos, under the Illinois state Constitution’s individual dignity clause, claiming the hit series unfairly implies that most Italian-Americans are mobsters, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

In the lawsuit, the group explicitly states it wants no money, nor do they want the show cancelled. All they want is a jury's declaration that the show offends the dignity of Italian-Americans.

The Illinois Constitution’s dignity clause states that "Communications that portray criminality, depravity or lack of virtue in ... a group of persons by reason of or by reference to religious, racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation are condemned."

Faux Civil War Vets Booted From Mall

More than 50 Sons of Confederate Veterans were chased away from the Pierre Bossier Mall in Shreveport, La., because they were wearing Civil War-era uniforms, the Shreveport Times reported.

The eviction occurred while SCV members, dressed in Confederate soldiers' uniforms, held a luncheon in commemoration of Confederate History Month. The event was being held at a mall restaurant, which had assigned the group its own private room decorated with Confederate flags.

Some of the members who attempted to shop afterwards were asked to leave by security guards, they said. "We were asked to leave the mall because of the way we dressed," said Lynda Estes, a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy who was dressed in a hoop skirt and accompanied by two others from the group. "We asked why, and she said because of the uniforms. She called them 'gray suits.'"

From the Central Servers:

Pat B., on the Eastern Shore of Va., is amazed:

After reading the article on the United Poultry Concerns problem with the OddzOn toy chicken, I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief.

Unfortunately UPC is headquarted in the Virginia community I live in. It is a VERY small fringe operation operated by a lunatic named Karen Davis, who actually lives with chickens. She and her group are a total laughing stock here in Frank Perdue country.

For Rite Aid and Tootsie Roll to cave in to her amazes me, as her group is very small and actually, NO ONE listens to her. One person with a mental problem can have this much influence?

Rich C., in Plano, Texas, insists:

"School officials said the assemblies are not left-wing by design, merely by default. "There's less a diversity of ideas that come forward because the school is politically very homogenized," said Rachel Schneider, the school's leadership advisor."

Sounds like they need a little affirmative action to assure diversity! I'll not hold my breath ...

Bud says:

Just wanted to assure you your column is read and appreciated!

Refreshing as well!

Keep it up and I'll begin to think the First Amendment might also apply to non-liberals!

Ted W. believes:

If a government entity were burning books and materials -- it's censorship. But if a private organization -- a church -- organizes a public burning of material, then it's that an expression of free speech, just like burning the flag. ... we might not agree with it, but they should be allowed to do so.

Doug P. is incredulous:

Reading these stories on Apr 2, it's easy to think that most could pass for April Fool's jokes.

Dan B. says:

In reference to the March Against Hate initiative in London:

I question the intelligence of anyone who abuses a waiter or waitress. After all, they are the last people to handle the food before the patron gets it.

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